Tribune News Service
New Delhi, March 26
Hours after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman announced a Rs 1.70 lakh crore financial package on Thursday, a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Centre to declare financial emergency under Article 360 of the Constitution to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
Filed by Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASE), the PIL contended that Covid-19 crisis can't be managed as per Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) or a notification under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 or provisions of the Epidemic Disease Act 1897.
The NGO demanded suspension of collection of utility bills for electricity, water, gas, telephone, internet, etc., and EMIs payments liable to be paid during lock down period.
It also urged the top court to direct the state police and local authorities to strictly comply with Home Ministry’s instructions so that essential services were not disrupted.
“We have demanded an urgent hearing via video conferencing,” petitioner’s counsel Virag Gupta told The Tribune.
Terming the 21-day nationwide lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “the biggest emergency in independent India”, the PIL said “it must be addressed as per Constitutional provisions through unified command between Central and State Governments. This will be required not only to defeat the war against corona virus but also in recovery of the Indian Economy after Lockdown is over.”
If financial emergency was declared, the financial package of Rs 1.7 lakh crore announced by the Centre can be utilised in better and unified manner across India, the petitioner submitted.
“Almost all the Fundamental Rights such as freedom of movement, most rights under Article 21 and various other fundamental rights have been practically suspended during this lockdown. The general public is not having access to the newspapers, which is happening for the first time after independence. The closure of courts affects the right to get justice. It is submitted that this requires the imposition of emergency as per the Constitution, and not an order under Disaster Management Act, 2005,” the petitioner NGO submitted.